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Sunshine Coast artists connect to world in pieces

Coast artists united for worldwide puzzle
Helena Rae and Nicol Mentis reflect on the finished Sunshine Coast puzzle that represents work by 18 area artists.

An international art project begun during COVID isolation attracted a group of 20 Sunshine Coast collaborators who last week completed an interlocking assemblage of individual artworks. 

American mixed media artist Beatricia Sagar launched the We Are All Connected Art Project during a pandemic lockdown in 2020. She mailed puzzle pieces to 20 friends and invited them to use their chosen techniques before returning the pieces for reassembly and exhibition. 

The project, whose results were displayed on Instagram, continues to grow in popularity. Sagar has so far received over 1,000 puzzle pieces and assembled more than 100 finished puzzles. 

Sechelt-based collage artist Nicol Mentis designed and sent a single piece at the beginning of Sagar’s worldwide call for contributions. 

“It just sort of tickled my fancy,” said Mentis. “I thought it was like somebody reaching out into the world to say that we can still be connected when everybody was in isolation.” 

Mentis, who fuses Japanese paper, acrylics and beads into textured art cards, earlier this year noticed that one of Sagar’s puzzles was the collective work of artists from Manchester, England. She contacted Sagar and volunteered to curate a puzzle produced entirely by Sunshine Coast artists. 

Eighteen artists answered her call. The resulting artwork is a pastel-hued harmony of miniature landscapes, nature studies, and even portraiture. Each piece supports its neighbours, providing structural and thematic integrity to the finished product. 

“I found great pleasure in receiving a small, unusual ‘canvas’ in the mail as part of this project of connection,” said Powell River painter Anna May Bennett. “It’s been both challenging and rewarding. I’m grateful to have been approached, and encouraged to participate, being a fairly solitary painter, in general.” 

Watercolourist Helena Rae, of Sechelt, whose cloud-shaded seascapes often depict local vistas, rendered a pair of islands set amid an azure ocean. Her piece is abutted by boreal evergreens and an impressionistic view of butterflies fluttering among long grasses. 

“It doesn’t matter what you do or who you are or what you know,” observed Mentis. “Nothing matters about you other than how you want to express yourself on this 2.5-inch by 2.5-inch puzzle piece. It’s all-inclusive.” 

Other contributors included Gibsons painters Charmaine Bayntun and Jennifer Love. From Sechelt, the project attracted Deborah Allain, Carol-Anne Almquist, Laura Barron and Jan Jensen. The majority of the segments are rendered in watercolours, plus a few miniature collages — including a typeset quotation from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do, with your one wild and precious life?” 

Mentis plans to send the completed Sunshine Coast puzzle to Sagar for display on her                          @beasagar Instagram account, and as part of a travelling exhibition of international contributions. 

To Mentis’s knowledge, the Sunshine Coast aggregation is one of only a handful of regionally-curated puzzles. Artists from more than 25 nations have contributed to the works assembled by Sagar.